Photo by Dennis Murphy

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski | November 19, 2021

Cody Walker and Tyrese Gibson were catching up at Red Lobster when the conversation turned to Cody’s late brother, Paul, of “The Fast and the Furious” franchise.

“First, I was so offended that he had never been to Red Lobster,” Gibson says with a laugh. “Cody said, ‘I don’t know what to order, dude. What are the hits here?’”

After a little ribbing, Cody told Gibson about he and Chris Lee’s plan to host festivals surrounding all-things cars called FuelFest.

Gibson said count me in.

After a pandemic-dictated halt to the 2020 event, FuelFest is coming to Wild Horse Pass Motorsports in Chandler on Saturday, December 4. They want it to succeed so much that Gibson says he feels vulnerable.

“I’ve only said this to a chosen few,” Gibson says. “Cody and I are very vulnerable when it comes to this whole thing about FuelFest. We were talking about Paul and to have this idea and to put this idea out there, we don’t want it to fail. We want this to be successful. We want people to know about this.

“We want to get the word out so people can show up. We want them to hit the road and come out to a really legendary day that you won’t forget.”

Now in its third year nationwide, FuelFest blends the enthusiast’s passion for the automotive world with celebrities, live music, food, drinks and art. The show features more than 600 top custom, exotic, rare and exclusive cars and trucks. There are car and drift exhibitions, and drag racing.

FuelFest will feature a live-action drift course that runs the entire length of the venue. Spectators can catch race cars drifting all day at FuelFest. The event will showcase precision driving skills in the FuelFest Drift Pit.

A portion of the events proceeds benefit Reach Out WorldWide, the nonprofit founded by Paul and continued by Cody, who is 15 years younger than his brother. The organization was founded in 2010 by the late actor/producer after a massive earthquake devastated Haiti and Walker was inspired to organize a relief team that responded to the disaster. ROWW’s mission is to fill the gap between the availability of skilled resources in post-disaster situations. ROWW completed four deployments in 2020 and continues to operate where needed. To date, FuelFest has raised more than $100,000 for the charity, Cody says.

“It’s a massive car festival, as we say,” says Cody, who recently moved to the Valley. “But it’s not just a car show. People are going to experience the whole shebang—drag racing, American muscle cars, exotic cars, European cars, crazy off-road vehicles. There’s something for everyone at the show.

“They can see the sights, smell the fuel, the burning rubber and just have a good time. The weather is going to be amazing, especially in December in the Valley.”

Arizona is important to Gibson as well as the singer-songwriter recorded the album “Black Rose” in a vacation rental in Paradise Valley. While he was here, he met one of his idols, Muhammad Ali, after receiving the “craziest text in the world.”

“My life changed forever in Arizona,” says Gibson, whose album hit No. 1. “I definitely have a different level of appreciation.”

Cody was flattered when Tyrese agreed to be part of FuelFest.

“Obviously, Tyrese and my brother go way back — all the way back to ‘2 Fast 2 Furious,’” he says. “We’ve all had a passion for cars and our careers are surrounded by cars. I’m heavily influenced by my brother and the whole car culture. It’s what I live and breathe every day.

“I knew Tyrese and I could put on something really special and unique for car fans and ‘The Fast and the Furious’ fans to come and experience with us together. It’s such a home run in so many ways to be able to do what you love and give back at the same time.”

Gibson echoed Cody’s sentiment.

“My thing has always been taking the culture and the energy and the fanbase of ‘The Fast and the Furious,’ which has had this worldwide cult following for 20 years, and turning it into an event.

“Paul Walker — everyone loves him. I miss him every day. He’s my brother, but Cody’s real brother. I want to take all of this energy and allow the fans to experience something that feels like ‘The Fast and the Furious’ without it being a movie premiere. Cody came up with this idea and it was a no brainer to be involved. Your background doesn’t matter — your religious or sexual preference. Cars and car culture is a universal language.”

Gibson explains the fest is “escapism” at its finest. After all, everyone wants to be in or own a nice car with “nice smelling leather,” and brightly colored with cool rims.

“We all know guys will go broke and literally have no gas money, but they will be more committed to rims and tires and souping up their engines,” Gibson says with a laugh.

“They want to compete and win and beat everyone in their neighborhoods. Every man has a hotrod covered up in their garage. They may be married for 40 years and have 10 grandkids. But they take the car cover off and start that engine and they’re rejuvenated.”


When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, December 4

Where: Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, 20000 S. Maricopa Road, Chandler

Cost: $15 to $300